Year ago, when Kitchen 24 first opened on Cahuenga Blvd, many a stomping ground for late-night revelers, I vowed to go just to be able to get breakfast food w/ a Bellini or Bloody Mary after hours (It's open 24 hours). Then, of course, life threw its diversions at me (and I learned how to make a Bellini & Bloody Mary). When Kitchen 24 moved location closer to me in West Hollywood and I was invited to the tasting event for their friends & family, I rejoiced.
Last Saturday, I met up with friends to peruse the new location. I've spent many hours of my life (stuck in traffic) on Santa Monica Blvd so it's comforting to know that Kitchen 24 will be there for me if I ever decide to pull over and wait it out. Kitchen 24 commands prime real estate- it's within walking distance of Starbucks, Cake & Art (a beloved cupcake joint), Trader Joe's, Plaisir (a French bakery), & Tender Greens.
My dining companions & I chose the cozy outdoor patio which had heat lamps. Purrrr-fect. From the patio, we could see the cozy bar through the glass doors. Over the bar, hung fun, rectangular lamps with metal etched utensils in the covers. The ladies ordered drinks off the happy hour menu, a red for me, and an "Oh Girl" cocktail for my friend. The gent ordered a Chivas scotch neat. Evidently, happy hour here continues after 7:15pm. The Oh Girl was everything the waiter promised...a cupcake in liquid form.
Our group shared a Smac and Cheese with ham and peas. This consisted of Elbow Macaroni and a three cheese blend (Cheddar, Mascarpone, and Gruyere) topped with a Basil Herb crust. This was comfort food at its best. When I'm taking a break from making Lobster Mac N' Cheese (Cheddar, Fontina, and Asiago cheese) with mushrooms and white truffle oil topped with a Panko crust, I'm likely to head here for a different version. The Mascarpone in this version, balanced the firmer texture of the other two cheese. This added to the creaminess of the dish. The peas added great color (and the nutritional benefits of greens) to the dish. The ham was in bite-sized pieces, which is always preferable.
The next appetizer we shared, was the Artichoke Spinach with 3 cheese dip accompanied with blue corn tortilla chips. Again, the color palette of this was gorgeous. The dark green and the dark blue juxtaposed against one another was a feast for the eyes. The consistency and texture of the dip was creamy without being overwhelming. I'm happy to note that it was not too watery (yes, it has happened many a time at other restaurants).
Always one to subvert the order of conventional meals, I was ecstatic to order the K24 Breakfast sandwich...for dinner. Oh the irony. This consisted of a toasted English muffin with Egg, Applewood smoked bacon, Grilled Onions, Spinach, Pepper Jack Cheese, and Sliced Tomatoes. The English muffin was toasted to perfection: crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. The bacon was delicately smoked and added complexity to the soft and subtle spinach, and piquant Pepper Jack Cheese. Did I detect any over-charring on the muffin or bacon? Zilch!
My friend ordered the The Big Baller Sandwich which consisted of Jumbo meatballs cooked in Marinara served open faced (like a Tartine) on Foccacia bread with Provolone cheese. With such a cheeky name for a sandwich, how could I not smile? I was having enough trouble tackling my sandwich so I did not try this one. I did, however, try the skinny fries that came with the sandwich. They were freshly made (no twice used oil here!) and the perfect texture which is more difficult to obtain when making thick, Belgian fries.
The service was attentive: these people really put a lot of heart and effort into their menu, what works, what doesn't work...and it shows. I'll be happy to support this establishment, time and time again.
8575 Santa Monica Blvd,
Whew, glad we all weathered (no pun intended) yesterday's rain! Rainy days make me want to replay "Quelqu'un m'a dit" by Carla Bruni.
On another note, now that the SAG awards & Golden Globes are over...come to Salon Republic for your pre-Valentine's day or pre-Oscars primping! Naja Rickette, celebrity manicurist (Lady Gaga, Fergie, Mary J. Blige) & my friend Dionne Phillips, makeup artist (Naomi Campbell, Paris Hilton,etc) are awesome : )
Chaya in Venice is my constant love. Before my first visit, I was skeptical of the concept of French-Japanese fusion cuisine. But the experience was transcendental. I became a devoted convert. The seafood was not only fresh, but the chefs knew exactly what do with it. I have been to restaurants in which the unhappy instance occured: fresh seafood was procured from a market only to have it overcooked to a heap of unrecognizable rubbery, chewy substance (even burnt & charred), buried underneath overwhelming sauce.
Or, there were the numerous times when top-grade, quality seafood was procured only to be barely cooked (to alarmingly raw conditions) and paired with a heartbreakingly underwhelming sauce. I'm not one to judge: I've also replicated disappointed experiences in my repertoire of cooking before I actually got it right. My heart cried for what it could have been, the potential lost every time this unhappy instance occurred.
And then there was the unhappy instance in which the fate was doomed from the start: the seafood was not fresh or frozen and the cook did his best to dress up the proverbial pig. Chaya is exemplary: it procures top-fresh seafood, cooks it in such a way to optimize its quality by choice of sauce & just the right amount of temperature for just the right amount of time. Though I prefer the Venice location, I've never had a bad experience at Chaya. Each location has a slightly different menu that caters to my fondness for variety.
My last visit was nothing short of stellar. I arrived to the bustling, energetic hum of a restaurant come alive. On a Saturday night, I was clearly not the only fan of Chaya. I had a glass of Pinot Noir with my dinner companion while we waited for our table. Perhaps the diners before us were savoring each magical bite that fueled fabulous conversation? One can only imagine. The Pinot Noir was excellent & mellow, which in turn, mellowed me out after an action-packed week.
Our table was soon ready & I anticipated this experience (the menu I had since changed from my last visit). We ordered Yellowtail nigri & Spicy tuna roll as an appetizer. Though I was hesitant to order these because I thought I would be tired of sushi ( I had made sushi at a Nobu workshop & eaten the sushi for lunch that day), I had to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the sushi here at Chaya. The seafood was fresh, a must. The rice was al dente & semi-warm (which traditional Japanese sushi tradition calls for). Last but not least, the sushi was not annoyingly drowned in sauce as is the theme in many a Japanese fusion restaurant.
We both shared a plate of Soy glazed black Cod with Hijiki Garlic Brown Rice & Asparagus Tempura. The cod was fresh & subtly sweet. It didn't need my fork because it was so soft & moist. The cod melted in my mouth. I eagerly tried to scoop up every last bite with my fork and became frustrated when I couldn't do it fast enough. The Hijiki garlic brown rice was savory, exotic, and utterly delightful. This was rice with a personality, one with which I meshed perfectly with. The sweetness of the cod and savoriness of the rice complemented each other. I was not too much of a fan of the asparagus tempura. It wasn't bad but it paled in comparison to the other two elements on the plate. In this rare instance, I wish there was some sauce that the tempura came with, just a drizzle.
The Fusili Arrabiata with Sauteed Shrimp consisted of a slightly spicy, robust tomato sauce atop al dente corkscrew pasta. The Sauteed shrimp was fresh & obtained the happy medium of not too soft (indication that it's undercooked) and not too rubbery, chewy (indication that it's overcooked).
This mini world tour (with stops in Japan & the Mediterranean), proved to be just what I needed. It was all the better that it was all within one restaurant in one dinner with good company. Chaya does not disappoint & is consistently good. It is the perfect marriage of French haute cuisine & Japanese precision. Though an unlikely pair, it is one that defies all naysayers & skeptics. It culls from two traditions to transform into a pioneer of modern sensibility that is the future. Now that's something to root for!
Tags: al dente, asaparagus, brown rice, cod, corkscrew pasta, French, fusili, garlic, glaze, hijiki, Japanese, nigri, overcooked seafood, pinot noir, quality seafood, Seafood, shrimp, soy, spicy tuna roll, sushi, tempura, tomato sauce, top grade seafood, undercooked seafood, venice, yellowtail
As adults, we shoulder grievances everyday, often without being to able to vent or complain to anyone. Who do we hold responsible for traffic, that nasty, lying parking attendant, construction on streets that make us late to work, re-occuring illness, being cut off by another car, an ungrateful so-called friend, unfulfilling jobs, career setbacks, or difficult relatives? Where do we file a complaint, in this court of life? Who will answer? Life is complicated. But sometimes, just sometimes, we come across little things, that redeem the joys of life. The color is brought back to the black & white film that plays out our life, with the omniscient director at its helm. These things, whatever they may be, bring back the sparkle to our eye, that extra bounce to our step.
For me, that redemption comes in the form of Essential Chocolate Desserts in Culver City. This place makes me forget that I'm an adult (with all its dubious responsibilities & uncertain outcomes). As soon as I walk in to this little confectionary, I am transformed. I am a kid in a candy store with my heart thumping deep inside my chest. If that thumping were created by any instrument, it would be a bass drum, sure and steady. My heart has a mind of its own, devoid of reason. It jumps up & down, & whirls 360 degrees.
I stare at each concoction, mesmirised. The bright & vibrant colors are of Alice in Wonderland proportions. Katy Perry could have stocked up on these wares for her music video, "California Gurls". If I could decorate my room in this theme, I would. After several slow motion moments, I ask the guy behind the counter what each of these concoctions are. He patiently explains the ingredients within each creation & allows me to sample a custom made ice cream flavor, their signature Red Velvet, made by Lappert's ice cream in Northern California. Essential Chocolate Desserts send their red velvet cake to Lappert's so that the ice cream flavor can be made. It is hard to choose, there are macaroons, chocolates, cakes, gourmet Hostess cakes, slices of Red Velvet cake, and ice cream.
The Cookies & Cream ding dong tastes just like ice cream, save for the different temperature & the icing being atop vanilla cake. I especially liked the strategically placed Oreos on the top. One bite and I was transported to the Baskin Robbins I used to frequent as a little girl. The icing was soft & creamy, not fudgelike & saccharinely sweet like its other peers. The oreos were on the soft side as well.
The Andes mint ding dong was my favorite of the two. I also liked the Andes mints placed strategically on top. The chocolate cake underneath the icing is soft & moist. The icing, because of the minty flavor, was as refreshing as lemonade on a hot day. I reveled at the ability of this mere cake (not ice cream) to be so refreshing. This would be perfect on a hot summer day in lieu of ice cream, frozen yogurt, or, dare I say it, lemonade.
Life is good & redemption is found in the unlikeliest of places. The stars are aligned. I hear the birds rejoicing spring, their voices crystal clear. The bright pink flowers smile at me from their well manicured lawns. The anticipation and savoring were all a part of the journey. I will be back to Essential Chocolate Desserts to renew my faith, frequently.
Essential Chocolate Desserts
10868 Washington Blvd.
Culver City,CA. 90232